28 February 2012

The petition for a Writ of Amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity, and covers extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof.

The Writ of Amparo has been resorted to in order to secure the freedom of human rights activists, believed to be imperilled by the unlawful acts of military elements, such as in the case of MELISSA C. ROXAS, a member of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-United States of America (BAYAN-USA); NORIEL H. RODRIGUEZ, member of Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon Iti Cagayan (Kagimungan), a peasant organization affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP); and RUEL MUÑASQUE, a leader of the Christian Youth Fellowship of the United
Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), who was the first ordered to be released from the military's custody through the Writ of Amparo.

It is hard to comprehend what Atty. Magtanggol B. Gatdula's situation has in common with those who have previously sought and been granted relief through the Writ of Amparo.

Atty. Gatdula is very much alive, hence, he cannot possibly claim to be a victim of extrajudicial killing.

Neither is he a victim of enforced disappearance. It is not for nothing that Section 5(3) of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo requires the signed and verified petition to contain "[t]he actions and recourses taken by the petitioner to determine the fate or whereabouts of the aggrieved party," among others. He has not been arrested, detained or abducted.

In fact, he is in enjoyment of all the rights accorded to him by the Constitution, including the right to free access to the courts.

Atty. Gatdula fears that he allegedly "stands to be framed" for the ambush of his former subordinate in the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Deputy Director Reynaldo Esmeralda, last 21 February 2012. In relation to which, according to him, DOJ Prosecutors are allegedly "now in conspiracy" to fabricate the charge of Frustrated Murder against him to pave the way for his arrest and eventual "rubout" or "salvaging." These, according to him, entitle him to the protection of the Writ of Amparo because resort to the remedy covers cases of "threatened violations" of the right to life, liberty and security.

On the point of whether or not the Department of Justice poses a threat to anybody, the answer is, of course, a definite yes. Anyone who dares to violate our penal laws and disturb the peace and order can expect to face the full force of the law. The DOJ, as the principal law agency mandated to administer the criminal justice system, certainly poses a threat to all criminal elements, who can expect to be brought to justice in accordance with the due process of law. Such threat, however, is by no stretch of the imagination unlawful.

However, as to the point of whether the Secretary of Justice, the prosecutors and investigators of the DOJ are out to kill the former NBI Director, the utter absurdity and preposterousness of such a claim only serves to reflect either the moral depravity and malicious tendencies of the mind that concocted such a colorful fabrication, or showcase the extent of the paranoia and mental disturbance afflicting such mind. Or, perhaps, both.

It must be emphasized that, although the Constitution guarantees Atty. Gatdula the presumption of innocence and the observance of due process of law, such protection does not extend so far as to prevent the wheels of the criminal justice system from turning. The proceedings in the Department of Justice have been above-board from the very beginning. It is, therefore, difficult for us to comprehend Gatdula's latest legal tactic, considering that it is so disjointed from any recognized remedy in law available to anyone in his situation. He cannot claim to be seeking the protection of the Rule of Law and, yet, at the same time, seek to bind the hands of the lawful authorities from investigating and prosecuting criminal activities. Such level of hypocrisy and legal manipulation has no place in a civilized society.

The Writ of Amparo is an extraordinary writ. It should not be abused. The writ is supposed to be available where the "threat" against the "life, liberty and security" of the petitioner is unlawful, and not when such arises from a lawful process, i.e., a criminal proceeding. In this case, the private offended parties have already filed their complaint and have, thus, initiated the criminal action, pursuant to Section 1of Rule 110 of the Rules of Court.

The irony that Atty. Gatdula should now resort to this remedy is readily apparent, as the proceedings that gave rise to his dismissal from the service,' and the conduct of preliminary investigation against him and his co-respondents was the alleged kidnapping and serious illegal detention of a female, foreign national, who was allegedly kept in the premises of the National Bureau of Investigation for more than a month without a single charge having been filed against her.

Such irony, would be compounded, if not made outrageous, if Atty. Gatdula would. now make use of the extraordinary remedy of the issuance of the Writ of Amparo to derail the delivery of justice for the private complainants, by precisely preventing the officials of the Department of Justice from discharging their mandate and duties under the law. Such is the very anti-thesis of the rationale for the Writ of Amparo.

As the former Director of the premiere law enforcement and criminal investigation agency of the national government, Atty. Gatdula ought to know better than to abuse such reliefs.

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